Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Greatest of the greats

While looking for inspiration for a blog post I stumbled across this small article and thought it made an interesting, and slightly patronising, read!
The preemie brain can never catch up, it seems. If you were born very prematurely, after baking for less than 32 weeks, instead of 37 to 42 weeks, odds are you could have been a bit brighter than you are. Your white matter — the brain’s wiring cells — simply couldn’t recover from that early interruption.
 Researchers used a form of MRI to measure the performance of brain regions in adults, comparing people born very early, and those born at full term. The cells of the white matter in preterm adults simply don’t function the way normal ones do. And that malfunction correlates with three factors:
 • weight at birth 
 • degree of prematurity
 • adult intelligence 
Ouch. On a comprehensive IQ test this amounted to a difference of 11 points lost, compared to the normal-term group. The very-preterm average was 95.5. 
 While that’s miles from mental retardation (less than 70), the gap is noteworthy: For best results, do not open oven door while cake is baking."
The title is alarmist, the last line in particular is priceless and I think the whole article a bit simplistic. The author doesn't appear to know anything about prematurity - I mean, doesn't she know some of the greatest minds in history were preemies?
  • Albert Einstein
  • Anna Pavlova 
  • Charles Darwin
  • D H Lawrence
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • Isaac Newton (so small at birth he fit inside a quart mug)
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Johann Goethe
  • Johannes Kepler 
  • John Keats 
  • Mark Twain 
  • Napolean Bonaparte
  • Renoir
  • Sir Winston Churchill
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Victor Hugo
  • Voltaire
Despite early, traumatic beginnings, often in times when there was virtually no such thing as neonatology these are people who have changed the way we think about the world, they are the best scientists, physicists, painters, writers, philosophers, dancers and politicians.
Maybe the research is true, and some part of the brain is not fully formed properly, but looking at this list is that really a problem, maybe in not being fully formed it gives the brain opportunities to open up and expand in new ways.
I look forward to the day our preemies names will be up there, with this list of the greatest of the greats!


  1. Good grief, some people should not be allowed to publish things! (the author, not you. I enjoyed that; welcome "back"!)
    Maybe, on a scientific level, the brain is irrepairably damaged by prematurity. But, because it happens so young, the brain is at optimum plasticity level and so while the brain might look different, it will function the same as any other. As you so rightly say, it is an opportunity for the brain to think outside its box, and find another Newton or Darwin!
    Such a black and white view. With the huge range of things that can occur with prematurity, gestation is not always reliable alone to make these sweeping statements, and as anything, the input from parents and clinicians is vital.

    Surely Heidi will be the next Florence Nightingale genius to prove wrong? x

  2. Thanks, it's good to be back (although taking advantage of my friends internet connection, as mine is rubbish at the mo).
    Heidi will most definitely be the next Florence Nightingale, I have yet to decide, oops, I mean Elsie has yet to decide what she wants to be when she grows up :) Although she's showing early signs of being a pretty good comedienne xx